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8/13/2007
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Google Pack Picks Up Free Office Suite

The addition of StarOffice to Google Pack shows Google confronting Microsoft more directly than before.

Google's cold war against Microsoft Office is heating up.

Google Pack, Google's free software bundle now includes StarOffice, the productivity software suite distributed by Sun that is the basis for its open-source project, OpenOffice.org.

StarOffice includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, graphics, and database applications, along with a library of images and 3D effects. Normally available for $70, StarOffice is free with Google Pack.

Google has long avoided positioning its online productivity applications as Microsoft Office competitors, preferring instead to emphasize Google Docs & Spreadsheets programs as tools for collaboration. The addition of StarOffice to Google Pack shows Google confronting Microsoft more directly than its rhetoric suggests.

Google's gradual assault on Office should continue later this summer. That's when, according to Google engineering director Sam Schillace, Google is planning to release online presentation software that competes with PowerPoint, another Microsoft Office application.

And lest anyone mistake Google's interest in collaboration as disinterest in competition, consider that -- as Google watcher Ionut Alex Chitu notes in a recent blog post -- one difference between the $70 StarOffice and the free OpenOffice is that the former includes Microsoft Office migration tools.

It's worth noting that Dell, which distributes Google Desktop and Google Toolbar on its PCs as a result of a deal struck with Google last year, distributes OpenOffice (and not StarOffice) with its Ubuntu Linux consumer PCs.

"The next step would probably be the addition of a plug-in that lets you synchronize local documents with Google Docs & Spreadsheets, so you can have the best of the both worlds: edit complicated documents offline, collaborate and store files securely online," Chitu speculates. "For now, StarOffice is integrated with Google Search and Google Desktop."

That step may involve Google Gears, an application programming interface (API) that Google released at the end of May to help developers add offline capabilities to online applications.

The last time Google Pack grew was in March, when Google added Symantec Norton Security Scan, PC Tools Spyware Doctor Starter Edition, and Google Photos Screensaver.

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